“Well,” I said, “I guess this means we have herpes now.”
… I realize that opening with this line gives the false impression that I went on my first cruise expecting to gain a perfect tan, ten pounds, the experiences of a lifetime, and cold sores. I also realize that starting a sentence with “I realize that” implies a concession and contrasting statement, but I’ve completely forgotten where I was going with this, just in time before I take the joke too far.
Look, it’s been a while.
I missed the last two weeks because I didn’t have Internet access. (More accurately, I didn’t want to spend a ridiculous amount of money on the ship’s Wi-Fi. I wanted to spend that ridiculous amount of money on food. Specifically, a lot of food.) The brief removal of technology from my life freed up much of my spring break for me to experience novel situations, such as going sunbathing in cloudy weather, attending popular towel folding demonstrations, and suffering from technology withdrawals. Absolutely riveting stuff.
Actually, the cruise was incredible fun. I’d been worried, at first, that I would spend the trip holed up in my cabin on account of my having no friends my age. But there was plenty of entertainment, places to explore, and, more importantly, WEIRD BLOG MATERIAL.
I could probably spend the next few months just elaborating on uncomfortable situations, but I thought I might give you a general picture of what I found most bizarre: how my cruise expectations differed from reality.
1. You get exactly what you pay for. If anything, you get less. Consider the picture below.
The sooner you accept that everything in the ship costs money, the sooner you can relax and settle into debt. Price of a can of 7-Up from the minibar? $10. An hour’s worth of Internet? $30. Disinfecting a wound? $150. Multiple restaurants, available 24/7 to serve you endless fish and chips, brownie sundaes, and self-loathing? Priceless. Literally. It was all free.
2. The cruise population is not mostly retirees. It’s more like 58% elderly people, 5% cruise staff, 20% other people, and 120% frat boys and sorority girls. (They’re everywhere.)
3. The odds are not in your favor. There was an art gallery on Deck 7 of our ship, and it held, on average, five raffles a day, for attending various events, like art auctions and Guess-the-Price games and art seminars. After about six lost raffles, I made a point of showing up at every ensuing event simply out of spite. (And in hopes of increasing my odds. And in hopes that someone would offer a consolation prize to make me go away.)
4. White sand and water do not a beach make. When the Belize City tour guide showed us a picture of a water park in white sand instead of a shoreline, I was suspicious, up until they offered free Wi-Fi.
5. Let me tell you a story.
The deafening sound of my slow breaths feels almost sacrilegious in the underwater silence. Plants like sea snakes rooted in ocean floor dance hypnotically, and vibrantly colored fish weave in and out of washed-out coral.
Mesmerized, I follow a fluorescent blue fish to a tubular patch of purple and am met with… a finger?
I look up to see Mom’s outstretched hand inches from a patch of coral shaped like mutant broccoli and swim over in a frenzied panic to swat her away. Jabbing her repeatedly on the shoulder for her to surface, I inform her that coral dies when you touch it.
“I know,” she manages, returning underwater. And plants both her hands on a jutting piece to propel herself away.
My anguished scream lasts all the way back to shore.
“The water went into the mask and I swallowed a mouthful of saltwater,” she gasps indignantly, retching. “I was drowning!”
“You killed the coral, Mom,” I shake my head, mourning the loss of biodiversity as I drop my gear into the tub of disinfectant. You murdered the coral.”
A vendor walks up to us and displays an impressive collection of massive seashells. “I give you two for $20,” he says, putting one to his mouth and producing a foghorn sound. “Look, you can blow a sound.”
Mom takes the shell and blows into the hole, producing the sound of a sad chicken. I laugh, distracted, and give it a try, producing the sound of a sad, asthmatic chicken.
“You’ll get it with practice,” he says, once we try out at least four other shells, with little success, and strike a cheaper deal. He disappears, and we leave our money with the snorkeling vendor. (“You work with him, right?” I ask, warily. “Don’t worry,” he says. “Be happy.”)
Two minutes after we depart with our shells, walking along the shoreline, I come to the realization that we both basically shared saliva with a stranger. I relay this information to Mom, and she tries to rinse out her mouth with saltwater.
“Well,” I say, sadly, “I guess this means we have herpes now.”
That night, back on the ship, I realized that a) the money might never have gotten to Seashell Guy, b) I had put sunscreen on every place but my butt,
and c) I still didn’t know whether or not I had herpes.